On the 24th July 2010 something ambitious was happening. A documentary was being crafted which would show a snapshot of people’s lives. From 192 countries people submitted videos of what they were up to that day, culminating in 4,500 hours of footage from 80,000 clips. Producer Ridley Scott, director Kevin MacDonald and film editor Joe Walker sifted through the wealth of material and managed to create something utterly fascinating.
At only 94 minutes this crowdsourced documentary is a succinct exploration into human life. It’s a charming film, which (unless you have a heart of stone) will make you feel. There is something joyful whilst watching it, like it’s a celebration of life. From the mundane actions of waking up to people renewing their wedding vows there is something to be said for the films upbeat attitude. However it is punctuation by moments of contemplation and sadness, which will resonate with most people.
Harry Gregson-Williams and Matthew Herbert’s score (with the help of Ellie Goulding) only enhances the experience, especially in the montages that punctuate the film which give a great pace to the proceedings and make sure the film keeps focus as they become chapter marks for the film’s three thematic strands. The morning routine montage is a highlight, as there is something intrinsically fascinating about seeing all these people from around the world make breakfast. Also helping to give the film focus are the three questions that are posed and subsequently answered, which won’t be revealed here as it would shape the viewing experience and this is a film all about the personal experience.
It would be a disservice not to acknowledge the filmmaking talent on display here. Thankfully everyone whose clips were used has a co-directing credit. There are some great artistic moments throughout the film as the people of the world use webcams, mobile phones and HD cameras to tell their story. A girl is framed by sunlight in stunning high definition, a paper boat bobs up and down as people enjoy the lake out of focus in the background and a young boy pushes a wheel-barrow down alleyways in third person perspective. This ensures that it is never dull to watch and may require further viewings to fully enjoy the visuals on display.
But it is the content that really sells this. Moments of familiar humour are juxtaposed with moments of poignancy. As we watch a husband faint as his wife gives birth and a man thank his doctors after a heart operation. There are several highlights, the film is like a Rorschach test, with each viewer taking something different out of the experience. However some narratives are given more screen time than others, such as the Korean cyclist, the young shoe shiner and the guy who asks his mother what to do about a girl. These moments will probably come to mind when most people discuss the film, but on the whole it has something for everyone. It never judges or puts across a point of view or agenda; it is just a day in a life of these people.
Compelling, funny, shocking, hopeful and above all a joy to watch, Life In A Day is a remarkable achievement. There is no excuse not to watch it as it is currently free on Youtube and it airs tomorrow night on BBC2. We here at TQS urge you to watch it or better yet experience it.
A sequel called Britain In A Day is being planned for the 12th November. So for anyone interested get out a camera (or whatever) and see what happens to you that day.
Word by Daniel Cole